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Author Topic: 12 string guitars. Why?  (Read 5254 times)
strawintogold
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« on: December 30, 2008, 03:11:38 PM »

I'm curious as to the why of 12 string guitars. Also, how one would go about playing it? With a pick? Are all strings played individually or two by two? How do you tune it? Or rather, to what pitch?

holly
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« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2008, 03:32:13 PM »

I'm curious as to the why of 12 string guitars. Also, how one would go about playing it? With a pick? Are all strings played individually or two by two? How do you tune it? Or rather, to what pitch?

holly

Hey holly.

I've had a few 12 strings and keep thinking I need another one now! 

They're a whole lot of fun to play.  The strings are set up as 6 doubled strings.  The bass strings, including the G, have a string that is smaller and tuned one octave higher.  So it's the low and just above it is a string that is tuned to the low E played at the 12 fret.  The bottom strings, the B and high E, have an identical string each, tuned exactly the same.  So it's two B's and two high E's.  It's a really full and luch sound when strummed to be sure but Leo Kottke has been a major 12 string player for nearly 40 years and does it all fingerstyle.  It takes some getting used to but it's a whole lot of fun too...now I need another 12 string!
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tuffythepug
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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2008, 03:56:04 PM »

I'm curious as to the why of 12 string guitars. Also, how one would go about playing it? With a pick? Are all strings played individually or two by two? How do you tune it? Or rather, to what pitch?

holly


holly
Denis pretty well covered the technical aspects of the 12 string;   6 pairs of strings.  you've got 2 E's, 2 A's, 2 D's etc.  As for playing a 12 string it's not much more difficult than a 6 string.   You will hold down pairs of strings instead of individual stings when chording.  It just takes a little while to become accustomed to the feel.  The term "lush sounding" is fairly descriptive.  it's like having a chorus pedal on an electric (sort of).  The sound can be addictive.  12 string guitars are usually braced more heavily to withstand the strain of the extra string tension.  My Takamine 12 string which I sold to buy a Gibson 6 string is one of the few guitars I'd like to have back.  I loved the sound of that thing.

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bluesman67
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« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2008, 04:19:34 PM »

Reminds me of a harp.  They sound majestic and floaty.  I put a 12-string in the catagory of something that I'm glad experienced doing but I have no real desire to play one again.  I played 3 of them at Southpaw Guitars a couple weeks ago, 1 was a L-03.
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tuffythepug
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2008, 04:28:14 PM »

Reminds me of a harp.  They sound majestic and floaty.  I put a 12-string in the catagory of something that I'm glad experienced doing but I have no real desire to play one again.  I played 3 of them at Southpaw Guitars a couple weeks ago, 1 was a L-03.

Joseph
Did you try any slide playing on the 12-strings at Southpaw ?  They can really sound amazing when played with a slide.  I know that's one of your favored techniques.

T the P
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strawintogold
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« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2008, 04:30:07 PM »

I want to sound majestic and floaty.

I'm confused because if you play fingerstyle how are you impacting both strings? Or is that why it sounds like a harp? Because both strings are not plucked exactly the same?

holly
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2008, 04:42:13 PM »

I want to sound majestic and floaty.

I'm confused because if you play fingerstyle how are you impacting both strings? Or is that why it sounds like a harp? Because both strings are not plucked exactly the same?

holly

Exactly. plus for the 4 lower pairs, the 2 strings are an octave apart.

Here's Leo Kotke on YouTube, using a slide for the most part. It gives you an idea. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnQTC5ICGik

Another 12-string champion is Roger McGuinn ex-Byrds. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAejkh4rTjs

And just strummed, as 12 string gives a much fuller sound than a 6 string. A lot of 60's folk groups used a 12 string rythem player.

One of my favorite 12-string players is Dave Mason. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCpQLZs2Eh8



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tuffythepug
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« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2008, 04:45:21 PM »

I want to sound majestic and floaty.

I'm confused because if you play fingerstyle how are you impacting both strings? Or is that why it sounds like a harp? Because both strings are not plucked exactly the same?

holly


holly
the pairs of strings are so close together that it's very easy to pluck both simultaneously;  almost impossible not to in fact.
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ncognito
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« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2008, 05:14:21 PM »

The 12 string has a very unique voice.  From my limited experience, I notice two distinct approaches.  As has been mentioned they're capable of a lush, sweet, spiritual even ethereal voice which I'd guess has alot to do with the harmony effect of the octave strings especially in the four lower tone sets.  It can also grab your attention in a bold, in your face kind of way, almost like a banjo, lending itself well to protest music ie Pete Seeger, or open tuning/blues slide like Leadbelly or Leo Kottke.  In a group setting, it adds so much to the mix because it has such a presense harmonically and rythemically  Thanks for the audio examples Randy.  Although,  for some reason, I can't access them.  I hope others can.

        DAVE
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« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2008, 05:27:57 PM »

As ncognito says, the distinct voice of a 12 string can be a real asset.   I played in a small group of three acoustic players for awhile.   It can get a little monotonous if all three guitars have the same voice.  We got around that by using a 12-string, a regular 6 string, and a steel-bodied resonator to get three very different voices in the mixture.
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strawintogold
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« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2008, 05:29:29 PM »

is it a nightmare to string and tune? Anyone want to send me one?

holly
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« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2008, 05:32:10 PM »

is it a nightmare to string and tune? Anyone want to send me one?

holly

Not a nightmare but it is tedious to re-string as you might imagine.   And yes, sometimes they can be a bear to keep all 12 strings in tune.    I'm sure a local guitar shop would have a 12 string for you to road test.
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Denis
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« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2008, 05:33:52 PM »

is it a nightmare to string and tune? Anyone want to send me one?

holly

Well, I hate coated strings but next time I own a 12 string, I will use Elixirs or D'Addario coated strings so I don't have to change the strings as often...tuning can be a pain in the rear as well.  

If I had one, I'd probably be playing it so I couldn't send it to you...kinda want to get one again one day.  There's a used L-05-12 at a local shop that I tried a couple of weeks back...SWEET!!!

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« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2008, 05:41:21 PM »

It can be challanging to string and tune, but like anything, the more you do it, the better you get.  As far as I'm concerned, all the inconvenience associated with stringging and tuning are overshadowed by the amazing sound they produce.  For some, contentment comes from listening to others play; others, like me, are glutons for punishment, but love being directly connected to a nice 12 string.  Check out the unnofficial martin guitar forum which has one board exclusively devoted to the twelve string with more info than you can shake a pick at!    

        DAVE
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« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2008, 05:42:02 PM »

is it a nightmare to string and tune? Anyone want to send me one?

holly

No more than twice as much work to string and tune.  bigrin

Full, rich, ethereal, floaty, robust, ringing, and more.

Your ear will develop for tuning, and of course there are the electronic chromatic tuners to help. My Ovation 12 string will stay tuned for weeks at a time once initial string stretching is done. It certainly has spoiled me.

Over time I learned to finger pick it. The double strings are less of a problem than you might think, Holly.

I can't send it to you, but if you are ever passing through Houston I can let you try it out.

Norman
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« Reply #15 on: December 30, 2008, 06:51:20 PM »

Holly, did you listen to Randy's link to Roger McGuinn ?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAejkh4rTjs

look close and you will see he is wearing finger picks -
this is something you may want to experiment with if you like the sound.
Roger is doing it on electric but they are popular on steel string acoustic as well.

As far as finger picking a 12 string,

John Denver's beautiful love song, "Annie's Song" is finger picked on a 12 string.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkGS263lGsQ

so is his wonderful "sunshine on my shoulder"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkGS263lGsQ

John did a lot of wonderful songs with his 12 string.
Check them out on youtube ...

The Beatles of course had many wonderful songs using  12 string guitars
Here is George Harrison playing "here comes the sun"
notice he actually smiles at the beginning of the song ( he never smiled much).

....be prepared to spend a lot of time TUNING if you have a 12 string

- the 12 string works really nice if you are playing solo, it gives a nice, rich , full sound - almost like 2 guitars

- Larry
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« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2008, 07:44:32 PM »

Holly, 12er's are very varied in their tones and builds, I would say even more so than 6 strings. They can also be almost a never ending source of technique and experimental development.  Unfortunately many (if not most) the ones hanging on the walls in shops are low to mid end products and usually out of tune too.
Some people look for the brittle jangle as their hallmark sound (think maple), even going so far as to buy electronic jangle boxes to enhance it. That's the more common sound you are likely to come across as you try them out. Others (such as I) look for a warm blend and a good balance that is very full sounding, more of a organ sound than a harpsichord if that makes sense.
Stringing and tuning is a PIA with guitars or any stringed instrument. Just another reason to lean more upscale than low end, decent tuners and a great set up is a necessity with 12's, otherwise intonation and playability is a battle. No way 'round the fact 2 sets of strings take longer to change and tune, but there's nothing special about it. Good strings and good tuners will respond the same way on 12 strings or 6 strings. An electronic tuner and a pick up system of some sort to plug it into is a God send and well worth the few extra bucks. I know a few who can do it by ear, I'm not one of them.
I had mine set up (Thanks again Jim Holler @ Trinity Guitars) with the tops of the strings level, compensated saddle and nut, to eliminate the "pick hole" effect when strumming and picking. Usually the octave course of strings sits a bit lower than the standard course (reg. strings) making it difficult to get an even attack on the up stroke or when finger picking. But, you need a really good tech or luthier to spend the time to do that for you. The nut and saddle needs compensated one string at a time but it is a fantastic result. Taylor did this on their T-5 12 strings (but not their acoustic line) likely due to the very low action of their hybrid design.
So as you venture out to play some, take a tuner with you, and try to play a bunch. Guild is well known for their line, I also liked the Martin for a warmer sound, but the Larrivee L05-12 (mahogany) had what I was looking for hands down, and Jim did a fabulous job with the set up (patience of a saint in dealing with me).   

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« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2008, 01:14:15 AM »

I had 2 12 strings at different times when I was much younger. Both times I thought they sounded great but found after I had them a couple months I grew tired of them. Found they limited me as well. If I happened to ever get one again, I think I'd take the time to learn a particular style with it. They don't play like a regular 6-string, other than strumming big chords.
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« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2008, 01:35:43 AM »

I used to have a martin 12 string dreadnought. I was inseperatable for 3 years with it.... then I got tired of changing the tuning.... and sold it...

I played all sorts of music on it, rock and role to blues...


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHGbA7I5HZY


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« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2008, 03:27:16 AM »

Jeezze kids scare her off.The 12 string is an amazing tool.As for how there strung everyone got it rite,to a point.Most are strung with the octive string on the outside,Rickenbacker electrics put the octive string on the inside.Tuning it takes some getting use to.For me the best way to tune is get the "A" string to pitch then tune all the standard strings to it,Back track and tune the octive strings to there partner.I play finger style by defalt as I have gotten tired of picks flying out of my hand.At the max I have owned 5 12 string at the same time,each in a different tuning.All sorts of body style's and makes-Guild,Martin,Larrivee and Gibson.My perfered is the Guild with Larrivee very close.Trying to type info which for me is a challenge as I'm not very good at it so I'll post my standard feel free to call me and I'd be glad to give you any and all info I have to help.



I've been playing 12 strings since 1970 and have never been without one.There are some tune's that just sound better on a 12 string and vice a versa.
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